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Mining in Chile – statistics & facts

Mining has been an important part of the Chilean identity since indigenous times, and through the course of its history, the Andean country has cemented itself as a major global player in the sector. The mining sector accounted for more than 12 percent of Chile’s GDP in 2020 and generated 200 thousand direct jobs. Chilean mining exports added up to approximately 37 billion U.S. dollars that year, or over half the national export value. Internationally, Chile’s production ranks amongst the highest in the world for a series of metals and minerals - including molybdenum, silver, and gold – but copper is undoubtedly the most important metal in the Chilean economy.

A global copper titan

In addition to having the largest reserves, Chile has remained unopposed for years as the largest copper producer worldwide, representing some 28 percent of the global production in 2020, and with an output surpassing that of the following top three combined. Production is concentrated in the north of the country, particularly in the Antofagasta region - where Escondida, the world’s largest copper mine based on production capacity, is located.

Given the importance of copper to the Chilean economy, it is no surprise that the country’s largest copper producer – Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile, commonly known as Codelco – is also Chile’s leading mining company, with revenue of more than 14 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. The Chilean state-owned company, headquartered in Santiago, was officially established in 1976 under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Nowadays, it still accounts for almost one-third of Chile’s annual copper output. Other leaders in the Chilean mining sector include Minera Escondida, controlled by Australian company BHP Billiton, and Anglo American, both also operating in the copper segment.

Lithium: the next era of Chilean mining

Aside from copper, Chile has also gained increased attention in recent years as the home to the world’s largest proved lithium reserves, an alkali metal that experienced a boom in popularity due to its utilization in ion-lithium batteries. Although Chile’s lithium production still lags far behind global leader Australia, the South American country’s annual output has nearly doubled in the past decade. Its lithium potential is expected to continue developing, as international mining corporations start investing in the country, after years of exclusive exploration rights granted by the government to Chilean mining company SQM and U.S.-based Albemarle.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 36 most important statistics relating to "Mining in Chile".

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